June 16 is one of the most important days of South African history. A day which possibly triggered the end of apartheid.
While South Africans will enjoy the public holiday tomorrow, either through a braai or watching the Soccer World Cup, its significance is one to be remembered. So, how did Youth Day begin?
It all began on the morning of June 16, 1976. The Soweto Uprising had begun with a series of protests and demonstrations led by school children. Learners from various schools in Soweto began protesting in response to the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools.
Having endured the brunt of the apartheid regime, the children refused to be taught in Afrikaans. Approximately 20 000 learners marched from their schools to Orlando Stadium. However, they were met with severe police brutality.
It is believed that 176 children were killed that fateful day. Their crime was refusing to be taught in a language that was not theirs.
The aftermath had dire consequences for the South African government. Images of police shooting into the crowds of children spread around the globe. Liberation groups in Newcastle gained new recruits. The apartheid system started to crumble although it would only official end in April 1994.
Through the children sacrificing their lives on that fateful day, we can truly value the importance of Youth Day. As you sit back and enjoy your day off tomorrow, remember that a group of children helped bring freedom to our country.
With South Africa currently in an extremely hostile state, all people need to silence their opinions and respect the fact that only once we come together and leave the past where it belongs, will will reap the rewards of a prosperous country. So light your braai’s, celebrate our youth, enjoy the great day and most of all, forgive…